James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Henry Wheaton, 29 January 1821

To Henry Wheaton

Montpellier Jany. 29. 1821

J. Madison presents his respects to Mr. Wheaton,1 with thanks for the copy of his “Anniversary Discourse,” which is well calculated to attract attention to a subject deeply interesting to the U.S. by the views under which it is presented, and the lights thrown on it by his valuable researches & investigations.


1Henry Wheaton (1785–1848) was a graduate of the College of Rhode Island and practiced law in Providence. He edited the pro-administration newspaper, the National Advocate, in New York City from 1812 until 1815. Wheaton was United States Supreme Court reporter, 1816–27, publishing an annual volume of the Reports as well as writing on a variety of law and political topics. In 1826 he published Some Account of the Life, Writings, and Speeches of William Pinkney, a project that had been encouraged and supported by JM, who provided Wheaton with extracts of his correspondence with Pinkney. In 1827 Wheaton was appointed chargé d’affaires at Copenhagen; in 1835 he took the same position at Berlin, only to become U.S. minister to Prussia the following year. He resigned that post in 1846. Wheaton is best known for his volumes on international law, especially Elements of International Law (1836), which went through four editions in his lifetime and was translated into many languages. The “Anniversary Discourse” to which JM referred was Wheaton’s A Discourse on the History of the Science of Public or International Law (New York, 1821), delivered to a meeting of the New-York Historical Society on its anniversary, 28 Dec. 1820 (Elizabeth Feaster Baker, Henry Wheaton, 1785–1848 [Philadelphia, 1937], 3, 7, 10, 15, 18–20, 25, 27, 29, 33, 68–70, 76–77, 132–33, 146, 151–52, 295–96, 301, 307, 312, 314).

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